January 30, 2017

Purdue Profiles: Alain Togbe

Alain Togbe Alain Togbe, professor of mathematics at Purdue Northwest, travels to Africa every year with a group of friends to teach and set up research schools. (Photo provided by Purdue Northwest) Download image

Every year, Alain Togbe, professor of mathematics at Purdue Northwest, has gotten together with friends and traveled to different countries in Africa to organize research schools with the help of the Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées and the International Center for Theoretical Physics.

For two weeks, they teach courses and encourage African mathematicians between the ages of 25 and 35 to continue their research in mathematics. He sees it as his way of spreading his love and excitement for mathematics and teaching. This year, the group will travel to Côte d’Ivoire in April.

Togbe was born in Bénin, a West African country. He received a bachelor's degree and teaching certificate in mathematics from the Université Nationale du Bénin, a Diplôme d'études approfondies (Diploma of Profound Studies) from the Université d’Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics from the Université Laval in Quebec, Canada.

What encouraged you to pursue mathematics?

I had a teacher in elementary school who always pushed us to work hard and to love science and math. I was hooked on physics and math from that early age. In middle school, I used to go to the library and teach myself mathematics, take notes and do homework that I developed myself. If I didn't understand something, I would ask my brother or my sisters.

Later, I created a study group with some classmates. We wouldn't wait for the teachers to give us homework. Instead, we would assign it ourselves. We taught ourselves new concepts, tried to understand proofs of theorems and explored exercises.

What are some memorable moments from your time as a professor?

I have so many! I love to share knowledge and learn new things, so going to conferences to learn and also to speak is one of my favorite things. I am fortunate enough to be invited to conferences all over the world. Usually, I come back with new research projects and new collaborations. I am always appreciative of my hosts' kindness as well.

What is the main thing you hope students take from your lectures?

I hope they take away a sense of discipline that they can use in other classes and in life. Students are so busy with so many activities these days. Many of them have to work to pay their tuition and it is not easy for them. They have to make sacrifices and develop the willingness to learn. I hope my lectures and attendance policy sticks with them and helps them form a routine and sense of responsibility that they can apply elsewhere.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Today, collaboration with others is very important. I have the great opportunity to work with great researchers around the world. Not only do I get to visit them, but I also get to welcome them to the Westville campus. One of the conferences I organize is an international conference on Diophantine mtuples and related problems. Many researchers from America, Europe and Asia attend this conference. As a result of this conference, and with the help of two co-authors, I have proved the conjecture that a Diophantine quintuple does not exist.

Writer: Megan Huckaby, 765-496-1325, mhuckaby@purdue.edu

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